New Set of Apple Airpods Bluetooth Earpieces

I’ve gone through quite a number of bluetooth earpieces.  The one thing I’ve found though is the quality was always subpar compared to normal wired earpieces, and my guess is due to the amount of power required normally to deliver a decent balanced bass.  The market seemed to have fallen on it’s head, and went the route of creating ear inserts and calling them earbuds.  This doesn’t fly in my world, since my ears hurt after using them along with creating compacted ear wax or even collecting on the earbud itself.  They never quite sounded right since it always seemed like they were intentionally pressed closer to the ear drum.

I decided to splurge and get a set of Apple Airpods since they act as headphones along with microphones.  It did hurt to initially purchase them due to the price being artificially high with Apple not officially selling them at their stores since the stock is severely low.  There was a seller on Amazon, and I ordered through them… for $60 more than MSRP.  After a week or two of use, are they worth it to me?  Yes.

Basically, they feel the same as the stock earpods, without wires attached.  Here is a picture of them with Airpod skins protective wraps along with Spigen brand earhooks covers for use on my motorcycle.  I have to say the Spigen earhooks do a great job of containing the Airpods into my ear while riding.
airpods

And this is what they look like without the earhooks, which is how I use them when not on a moving motorcycle.

 

The reason they have sold themselves to me so heavily after using them is for several reasons.  One is that each earpiece senses when inserted into the ear, and alerts the device it is paired with.  This has been very helpful while listening to music and talking on the phone, since as soon as the earpiece is removed the music application senses the change and pauses as if the headphones were unplugged.  This also is helpful while on speaker – as soon as the bluetooth earpiece is inserted, the phone automatically switches over.  The integration with icloud is awesome, if you use it.  Using icloud, the Airpods can be migrated between iPhone to Macbook Pro to iPad to anything else using icloud.  Once the Airpods are added to one of the devices on icloud, it’s added to icloud and instantly added to everything else while being managed by icloud.  I’ve used this to migrate my Airpods between my iPhone to my Macbook Pro, then back to my iPhone after using them for what I needed.

The ability to switch between earpieces is a nice feature as well, and I use this feature while on long production-related calls now.  Using a single earpiece, Once I notice the battery getting low on power, I pull the other one out of the charging case and put it into my ear.  Then, I put the one I’d been using into the case to charge.  The battery in the case I’ve yet to entirely use through the day, and each earpiece I’ve gotten about 2-3 hours of active use (not standby) from between charge.  I’ve also noticed if used as simply a headset, the battery lasts much longer, usually 4-5 hours.

The container holds the earpieces perfectly, since it’s molded to fit and there is a magnetic holder at the base of the container to pull down and secure them.  This makes holding them in your pocket very stable.  The sticker skin that I have around it is mostly to break up the white color.

Until another business decides to make something that has the same ease of use, quality, and integration, I’d buy this again in spite of it being outrageously priced simply because nothing else offers it that I have seen.

EDIT July 29th 2017
I gotta say, these are my favorite set of bluetooth earpieces I’ve ever owned.  I’ve used them for conference calls, listening to music, listening for notifications while at work, etc.  One of my favorite features is being able to pull them out of my ears on an instant, and the music just pausing.  That’s great at work when someone walks up, and I can pull the earpiece from my ear and talk without fiddling with my phone.  The other thing I love is that I’m able to use them when I ride my motorcycle.  With the Spigen brand earhooks, I’ve been able to ride many times to and from work without the earpieces slipping out of my ears.  Now granted I have a windshield on my cruiser which cuts wind quite a bit, but not completely when at 70+ MPH on the freeway.  Also, the noise cancellation works awesome I’ve found.  You’d think with the microphone (on the bottom of the earpiece stem) being so far from your mouth that it would be a problem, but it does just fine when I’m talking normally to someone and there’s noise around me from others talking in the office.  I’ve used it out of the office too, and I haven’t had anyone have issues with hearing me.  In fact, most don’t think I’m on bluetooth, which in itself means a lot.  When I’ve been on long conference calls, I’ve been using one earpiece, and after 2 or so hours when the charge gets to 30-35% I put the other earpiece in my ear then charge the one I’d been using without any interference with the call.  The earpiece recharge only takes 10 or so minutes, and the charging container lasts for quite a few charges.  I went without charging the container for a week or so, only charging once in its life so far when it reached 40%.

The only complaint I have so far is how oddly my phone won’t connect with the airpods even when they are paired.  I turn of bluetooth and turn it back on, and all is well.  I spoke with an Apple store “Genius” (I hate that term), and she said the same as what I’d been doing.  Not sure why, but it’s a quick fix.

Apple iPad Mini

I’ve gone through nearly every iteration of iPad that Apple has brought out, simply because they’ve made great advances in technologies available while at the same time not popping it into a plastic disposable body… they’ve always been aluminum, and constructed beautifully.
Having the iPad 3, I found many uses for it… some even replacing what I’ve done on the desktop. Now, it’s definitely never been a replacement by any means. That being said, I have used Google Voice for nearly 4-5 years as my voicemail & telephone service. I’ve had cell phones that were forwarded to by Google Voice, but with my iPad 3 I began using Google Voice directly. I popped a bluetooth earpiece in, kept my iPad 3 running Talkatone, and nearly instantly had a phone. The only downfall was the size, since the iPad 3 isn’t pocket-ready, and must be carried under your arm.
Bring in the iPad Mini! Originally I was thinking it’d be a failure, since it’s essentially an iPad but with a 7.9 inch screen. I didn’t factor in the changes that come with smaller tech, such as smaller size (5.3 inches wide x 7.87 inches tall x 0.28 inch thick), much lighter (almost half a pound, 0.69 lb), and more mobile.

iPad Mini front screenAfter purchasing it, I’ve ran it through the wringer with usage.  In my real-world usage, I haven’t found much of a speed-related difference between the iPad Mini & the iPad 3.  The memory on the iPad Mini (512MB versus the iPad 3’s 1Gb) makes the multiple tabs on the browser reload when shifting between memory-intensive pages, but that’s a minor drawback.

On the communications-side, the wifi feels more responsive.  My usage has been on 802.11G & N, both in my home & out at random locations.  A nice touch is the default setting of not asking if you’d like to join a network everytime one pops up when you aren’t connected.  (can be changed in the wireless settings, if this feature is desired)

PICT0022

One of the least desirable features of the Mini (and iOS 6) is the new Apple maps.  It has a future, it’s not highly polished right now.  The downfall is the Google maps application was removed from iOS 6.  This requires opening the web browser and going to maps.google.com in order to utilize the Google maps capabilities on iOS 6.  The plus side is the ability to create a shortcut to a web URL by simply clicking on the “arrow in a box” icon next to the URL, and selecting “save to home screen”.

The screen is not the retina-style screen that resides in the iPad 3 &4 (and iPhone 5).  The pixels on the retina display are 264 pixels per inch on the iPad 3/4, while the Mini has 163 pixels per inch.  While the pixel count is lower, it doesn’t appear as grainy as the iPad 2.  Maybe there’s some other technology at use to minimize the pixillation, however for everything I’ve done on the Mini graphics-wise it appears wonderful.  I’ve used Netflix & Hulu Plus with wonderful resolution, along with games I’ve had on my other iPad such as Flick Golf HD, SkyView, Real Racing HD, Plants Vs Zombies HD, Catapult King, Babel Rising 3D, etc.  That being said, perhaps I’m not a stickler when it comes to high graphics perspective, I’ll leave that up to the other users.

PICT0019

The end result is, I’m perfectly happy with the iPad Mini as an easily portable (pocket-ready!) companion with a 5 MP camera & 720p forward-facing camera for Facetime or your own picture.  (not that I use it)  As a telephone, it averages about 1.4mb per minute using Talkatone through Google Voice.  Obviously, ~82mb per hour of talk time would allow ~37 hours of talk time on a 3Gb data plan.  Thats ~2200 minutes!  Through AT&T LTE, it’s $30.00/month currently, at that.  Not too shabby if you ask me.

 

On the cusp of change, resistance stays alive sadly

Over the last 5 years, fuel has reached prices that was once thought unimaginable.  I see video games with animated shots of soldiers guarding stations with a pricetag of $1.83/gallon. (I think that was the price, on “EndWar” on the Playstation 3)  The price of 87 octane fuel was $3.83/gallon when I last filled up a week ago.  Mind you, this is without overly high government taxation on each gallon like in other countries across the ocean.  (that’s the reason for the higher prices in Europe & UK)
We are on the cusp of finally reaching beyond our odd obsession with gasoline, and I’ve been waiting for so many years for this.  I was worried about the industry and consumer influence leaning more towards another non-renewable resource such as hydrogen, biodiesel, etc.  Thankfully, the industry lean is pushing heavily towards electric.  The plus side of that is electric is a multi-source energy, able to be produced in infinite ways that are both renewable, along with others toxic.  Solar energy is on the distant future as technology rolls in, however wind power is peculating currently across the western United States and various parts of the east.  Nuclear is used in quite a few places within the United States as well, however that will be phased out through the next 40-50 years thankfully.

This year has brought quite a few industry competitors together for the first time that I’ve seen.  Toyota and Honda have been in the industry for quite a few years now, and have their footing with the Prius/Civic & the Insight.  Of course there are other hybrids, but those are the most notable.  I have a Prius, and I’m quite impressed.  That being said, driving it I can just taste the future where the EV mode is not a mode at all but the actual transport mode of the vehicle.  Chevrolet’s release of the Volt is a good introduction for the American competitors, with a 40 mile run of pure electric before kicking over to the gasoline engine for the rest of the run.  Obviously, that car’s leaned towards the short-distance drivers.
The one that is catching my eye though will be released the middle of 2012.  The Telsa Model S – a pure electric premium sedan capable of carrying 7 people, lots of cargo space, drive to 120 MPH, and comes standard with 160 mile battery and optional 230 & 300 mile battery.  This is pure electric, no gasoline at all.  There’s even a 17 inch screen for GPS/3G/streaming radio/searching for restaurants/etc.  The base price with the 160 mile battery is estimated to be $57,500 (not including the federal tax credit of $7,500)  The batteries are estimated to be $10,000 more for the 230 mile version, and $20,000 more for the 300 mile version.
That’s an astonishing price for a vehicle that is close to the price of a BMW 535i and comparable in design without the thought that it’s electric.

With the momentum of electric vehicles finally ramping up, the next few years should be interesting.  My 2008 Prius will look like a 20 year old technology within 5 years I have a feeling, and I’m happy about that.  Let’s hope we don’t have any more conservative ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ mentality like we’ve had from GM over the last century.  The creeping malaise is a cancer to the industry.